Detroit Auschwitz Sign An 'Intentional, Malicious Act' of Hatred

ADL expresses outrage over 'Arbeit Macht Frei' Auschwitz sign at Packard Plant in Detroit.

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Rachel Hirshfeld ,

Jewish delegation at Auschwitz
Jewish delegation at Auschwitz
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has expressed outrage that windows at the former Packard Plant in Detroit were emblazoned with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes Free), the infamous work slogan used by the Nazi tormentors at the concentration camp Auschwitz to deceive and dehumanize prisoners. 

The letters of the Nazi slogan were apparently written out on poster board and displayed in windows across a covered bridge over a roadway at the historic former automotive plant, which is no longer in use.

“The prominent display of this quote at a historic Detroit landmark is disturbing and deeply offensive to victims of the Holocaust and to those who fought valiantly in World War II,” said ADL Detroit Regional Director, Heidi Budaj.

The style of the lettering in the sign reportedly had specific similarities to the Nazi sign at Auschwitz. For example, the upper half of the letter “B” in “Arbeit” (“Work”) is bigger than the lower half, just as at Auschwitz, The Detroit Free Press reported.

“The fact the perpetrators inverted the letter B, in a copy of the distinct lettering in the original sign at Auschwitz, is especially chilling and shows that this was an intentional and malicious act,” Budaj said.

“This message strikes at the very memory of a symbol representing the cruel cynicism of Nazism. This sign greeted more than one million prisoners as they were herded into the Auschwitz nightmare with the duplicitous message that ‘work sets you free,’ added Budaj. “We hope that the signs will be removed as quickly as possible.”

In its early years, the auto manufacturing facility used to be a symbol of the strength of blue-collar labor in America’s Midwest, as it employed thousands of workers, according to the newspaper.

Recently, though, it has come to signify Detroit’s industrial decline.

While it is unclear whether the sign was meant to be intentionally anti-Semitic, or merely a poorly judged remark on the decline of the manufacturing industry, it is quite offensive,

David Schulman, 53, who came across the sign while driving home from work last week, said, “I can’t explain why someone would want to do something like that. It doesn’t belong there. It doesn’t make our city look well.”